Silicon Valley’s most beloved woollen sneaker, Allbirds, has opened a second store in Soho, New York. Its first store was opened in April in San Francisco – and more stores are on the horizon, including here in New Zealand.
The store is 441 square metres wide with lots of plush places to sit, shoes hung from railings on the walls and even a shoe exclusive to the shop in a unique midnight blue shade that’s “inspired by the skyline of everyone’s favourite sleepless city”.
In another unique feature, the shop also has a human-size hamster wheel that lets customers test how the shoes feel under pressure.
The shop opening comes off the back of Allbirds raising US$17.5 million (approximately $24 million NZD) in Series B funding earlier this month.
The funding round was led by Tiger Global Management LLC, which prominent Kiwi Jamie Beaton is an analyst for. Elephant and existing investors such as Maveron and Lerer Hippeau also pitched in.
The company said it would use the funds for R&D into more sustainable materials, as well as to further its retail footprint both in the US and back home in New Zealand.
At the time, co-founder and co-CEO Joey Zwillinger said the company sees an opportunity to show leadership in a manufacturing industry that hasn’t paid enough attention to its impact on the environment.
“This fresh capital will allow us to make further strides in material innovation and our brick-and-mortar retail presence,” Zwillinger said.
Originally launching 18 months ago, Allbirds has gone from strength to strength, growing their San Francisco based team to over 50 employees and has released a new model of shoe called the Wool Lounger.
The shoe has since become the footwear of choice among entrepreneurs and investors in both Silicon Valley and in Aotearoa.
In an interview for Idealog's 2017 Design Issue, co-founder Tim Brown said the vigorous design process Allbirds went through chipping away at many was clear evidence of the Kiwi DIY mentality. He said from a design point-of-view, this kind of attitude elevates New Zealand on the world stage.
“An American company probably would have raised money at the beginning. They would have gone and found the best people in the world and they would have just done it from the start. We went on this long, winding journey, but we had to go through that process. And I think if we hadn’t done that at the beginning, we wouldn't have been as good as we are now.”
He said New Zealand is operating at a very, very high level in the design sector.
“We might not be great operationally, or at scaling businesses or accessing capital, but the design in our products, and our product design, is operating at just an immense level. I think we've been able to cut through in a very crowded category and design has been a huge contributor to that.”
This story originally appeared on Idealog.